Start your tour at the Cathedral, an exquisite 18th century baroque church.
Leaving the Cathedral, turn right and walk along Independencia Ave. to the first intersection: Macedonio Alcalá Street, a popular tourist promenade closed to traffic.
Turn left, cross the intersection (carefully) and continue past the Benito Juárez University of Oaxaca (on your left) and many architectural gems.
Pass through the second intersection (Morelos Ave.) and on your right, in the middle of the block, is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca (MACO), which exhibits contemporary artists from around the world, and a permanent exhibit of five Oaxacan artists.
Proceeding up Alcalá Street, turn right on Murguía Street and walk one block. Turn left and in mid-block on your right on 5 de Mayo you will find the 400 year old Ex-Convent of Santa Catalina, converted nowadays in the Camino Real Hotel, considered the most beautiful hotel in Mexico and designated a “National Treasure,” the building is definitely worth a visit.
At the Camino Real Hotel don’t miss the lavaderos fountain at the back courtyard. The breakfast buffet and poolside bar provide a taste of the good life and a good resting point.
Leaving the Hotel, turn right and proceed up to Santo Domingo Church, the most magnificent of Oaxaca’s 27 major churches. The towering church blocks the northern end of 5 de Mayo Street.
To admire its impressive facade, turn left on Gurrión Street, a short street with palms in the middle, and pass through the plaza in front.
Adjoining Santo Domingo Church is the Santo Domingo Cultural Center (closed on Mondays), this building holds the Oaxacan Cultures Museum, the Burgoa Library and the Ethno Botanical Garden.
Just across the street at 507 Alcalá Street is the Institute of Graphic Arts (closed on Tuesdays, free admission), this beautiful Colonial house has an extensive graphic arts collection and arts library donated to the City by Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo.
Leaving the Institute, turn left and cross through the plaza to García Vigil Street, go up the street at 609 ad you will find the Casa Juárez Museum, this house hosted Don Benito Juarez when he arrived from Guelatao at 12, the Museum recreates the atmosphere of this Oaxacan governor and most respected Mexican President.
Four blocks down, turn right on Morelos Ave. Two and a half blocks to the West is the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic Art, one of Mexico’s most beautiful Museums. The exhibited pieces and Museum were donated by Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo and the museum displays are superb.
Turn right as you exit the Tamayo Museum and continue two blocks. On the left side of the street go down some stairs, and ahead you will see the Basilica of La Soledad, the religious center of Oaxaca. The church, built 1682-90, is very ornate and somewhat overpowering. Fiesta de la Soledad is held here every December.
In front of the Basilica you will find stands selling sorbets and nieves (ice creams), relax and cool your feet.
Walk down the stairs to your right as you exit the Basilica compound and you’ll be on Independencia Ave. Turn left and walk six blocks along Independencia to the Zocalo, Mexico’s most beautiful plaza at the heart of Oaxaca, where your trip started.
The surrounding sidewalk cafes are great for crowd-watching and relaxing. The State Band and a Marimba Band offer free concerts on alternate nights starting at 7 p.m.
On the South side of the plaza is the State Capitol with three huge murals by Arturo García Bustos depicting Oaxaca in history and myth.
If you want to do some bargain shopping at the mercados (markets), pass by Zócalo on Cabrera Street and in the second block you’ll find the Benito Juárez Market. In the front section are many vendors selling arts and handicrafts. Wander the maze and be amazed at what you’ll find.
Exit on 20 de Noviembre Street and continue to the left for a couple of blocks. You’ll pass dozens of shops filled with pottery, leather goods, baskets, and handicrafts.
Continue down to Zaragoza Street, turn right and one block beyond at the corner of J. P. García Street will be the Market of the Artisans where weavers are at work producing rugs, belts, huipils, sarapes, and bags. Be prepared to bargain and you’ll find some great buys.